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Plain packaging encourages smokers to quit

20 Mar 2015

Image: Getty

Standardised or plain packaging of cigarettes featuring large health warnings encouraged more smokers in Australia to think about and attempt quitting smoking, new research has revealed.

For the study, published in Tobacco Control (doi:10.1136/tobaccocontrol-2014-052058), researchers from Melbourne, Australia surveyed more than 5,000 adult smokers (aged 18–69) between April 2012 and December 2013 and followed them up approximately one month later.

The smokers were split into four groups according to when they were surveyed at follow-up: in the couple of months before implementation of plain packaging; just as the new packaging was being introduced; later in the introductory period; and after standardised packaging was fully implemented.

The research found that smokers who were surveyed as standardised packaging was being introduced were most likely to report that they intended to try to quit smoking in the next month.

When compared to the smokers who completed the surveys before plain packaging was introduced, those surveyed in the first year of the new packs were more likely to conceal their packs from view, stub out their cigarette prematurely and attempt to quit.

According to the authors, their findings “provide some of the strongest evidence to date” that standardised packaging with larger graphic health warnings are associated with increased rates of thinking about quitting and attempting to quit among adult smokers.

The focus of the study was to follow-up smokers’ thoughts about quitting and quit attempts rather than examining smokers’ quitting success, so the follow-up period was relatively short to ensure participants could recall quit attempts accurately.

As a result, the authors said: “The extent to which the positive outcomes we observed may be maintained and translate into longer-term reductions in smoking prevalence still needs to be determined.”

Australia was the first country in the world to introduce standardised or plain tobacco packaging with large graphic health warnings in December 2012. On March 3, Ireland became the second country in world and first in Europe to do so, with the passing of the Public Health (Standardised Packaging of Tobacco) Bill 2014.

By June Shannon


Click here to view the full article which appeared in Irish Medical Times